Saturday, February 27, 2010

Public Speaking!

Y'all, I have always loved giving talks.

What I mean by a talk is standing up and telling 30 minutes of war stories, plus reading a few pages from one of my novels and then taking questions.

What's not to love about doing that?

This morning, however, I went to a session at a Duke alum seminar weekend ("Money, Sex, and Power") on giving more powerful presentations. I was one of the four who volunteered to give a talk and then get a critique in front of the sixty others in the group.

Oh, shit, I was terrible!

(I'm going to recover from this. I really, really am. I've just left that auditorium and come straight here to the library to blog about this experience.)

It was bold! I'll give myself that much credit. The three who went before me performed quite creditably.

The assignment was not to offer amiable personal anecdotes, but instead to make a three-minute presentation with a beginning, middle, and an end. I've done that only once since high school and I had a teleprompter then.

I won't bore you with details of how my effort this morning was a mess. Except to say that temperamentally, I'm a novelist. I communicate in units of 100,000 words, with lengthy flashbacks. Just believe me... (And it got worse as I realized how badly it was going. Perhaps from people's expressions of faint puzzlement and alarm.)

Now, here's the good news. I learned a lot. The teacher -- Joy Javits -- was terrific. She managed to say some nice things that I actually believed. I wound up feeling comfortable and redoing some parts in front of the group, using Joy's suggestions.

And I left with one tip that I know will stick with me: don't just skim my eyes across the whole audience, instead make lingering eye contact with one person after another.

Now, here's the clinker. I have a mid-day talk scheduled for Monday, at Edenton Street Methodist Church in Raleigh. My plan has been my usual rather informal chat. That's likely what I'll do, as usual. It goes over well. (In 39 years of giving little chats, it has gone over horribly only once --at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan--and semi-badly only twice, both in my hometown at UNCW where my father was a trustee. Thirty-nine years! Hear that, Joy? )

However, I may well pursue with Joy this business of learning to give a short pitch that's to the point. I need this skill so that I'll be prepared should I ever get an Oscar.

And now that I've told you all this, I feel much better. Really rather good, in fact. I couldn't immediately get my soothing and encouraging psychologist husband Bob on the phone to debrief, and turned next to you.

I'll let you know how the Monday talk goes.

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Debra W said...

Ah Peggy, not only do I admire you for volunteering to give this little speech, but I admire you even more for admitting that it didn't go so well! As I read your synopsis of what happened, I must admit that I cringed a little on your behalf. How difficult it is to go outside of our comfort zones! But you did so, and you learned something from it! Good for you! Do not allow this to ruin your mojo on Monday! Just get up there and do what you do best.


Anonymous said...

life is (eventually) pervasively unsatisfying, or Buddha said --often translated as "suffering". Tho w/ u , i recon u'r investment of energy in other, more reliable sources of self-support will balance yr self-esteem sooner rather than later. Hope u got up w/ bob--u 2've seeme soul-mates , & what cld be more sustaining ? Aiki

Peggy Payne said...

Thank you, Debbie and Aiki. Your encouragement is most welcome.

And, yes, Anon, I did finally get to unload the whole story on Bob, which was relieving.

Peggy said...

Also, getting back on the horse by giving another talk today was just the right thing.

My Monday lunch talk went well. Halleluia!

aiki said...

a Surprise ?? of course, as usual. Aiki

Debra W said...

Peggy, I am just checking in to make sure that everything is okay with you. I know I have your email somewhere and if I do not hear back from you soon, I will drop you an email. It's unusual for you not to write for such a long time and I just got a terrible feeling. I am sure that you are just busy with life, but please check in when you get a moment.


Peggy Payne said...

I'm fine, Debbie, and thanks for checking. I took a week of stay-cation, reading and puttering and doing no electronics (other than Netflix) Now catching up on work.

Promise I'll post again soon.

Debra W said...

Thanks for checking in, Peggy! I really did have a quick moment of panic when I realized just how many days it had been since you blogged! Good for you for taking a stay-cation! Sometimes we just need to check out for a while to refresh.

Did you watch any good movies? Read any interesting books? I'm reading The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot, and it's really disturbing on so many levels.

Be well, and blog when you decide to! I just wanted to make sure that all is well.


Peggy Payne said...

You're bold to read that book, Debbie. I anticipate being pretty disturbed by it.

My reading this past week was to finish Sula by Toni Morrison, which I loved. And I read T.C. Boyle's novel The Inner Circle, based Kinsey the sex researcher.